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YouTube algorithm shows right-wing, Christian recommendations more: Study

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YouTube’s algorithm is frequently recommending right-leaning and Christian videos, even to users who don’t have a history of interacting with that kind of content. The findings come from a new study by researchers with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank that studies extremism.

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The study explored video recommendations given to accounts designed to mimic users interested in four topic areas: gaming, male lifestyle gurus, mommy vloggers and Spanish-language news. 

Researchers created accounts and built mock user personas by searching for content. They found videos with religious themes were shown to all accounts, almost all of them related to Christianity. 

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The study also found the accounts interested in mommy vloggers and Spanish-language news were presented with more religious content than the others. 

The most frequently recommended news channel for both child and adult accounts interested in “male lifestyle guru” content was Fox News, even though the accounts had not watched any Fox News videos during the persona-building stage. Instead, the accounts watched Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson and searched for the term “alpha male.” 

Accounts interested in male lifestyle gurus were also often recommended news content that was mostly right wing or socially conservative. 

In another experiment, researchers created two accounts interested in mommy vloggers, which they trained to have different political biases. 

One of the accounts watched Fox News and the other watched MSNBC. The study found, the right-leaning account was more frequently recommended Fox News than the left-leaning account was recommended MSNBC, despite having watched the news for the same amount of time. 

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

YOUTUBE’S ALGORITHM IS FREQUENTLY RECOMMENDS RIGHT-LEANING AND CHRISTIAN VIDEOS – EVEN TO USERS WHO DON’T HAVE A HISTORY OF INTERACTING WITH THAT KIND OF CONTENT – ACCORDING TO A NEW STUDY. 

RESEARCHERS WITH A LONDON-BASED THINK TANK THAT STUDIES EXTREMISM CALLED THE “INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC DIALOGUE” EXPLORED VIDEO RECOMMENDATIONS GIVEN TO ACCOUNTS DESIGNED TO MIMIC USERS INTERESTED IN FOUR TOPIC AREAS: GAMING… MALE LIFESTYLE GURUS… MOMMY VLOGGERS… AND SPANISH-LANGUAGE NEWS. 

RESEARCHERS FOUND VIDEOS WITH RELIGIOUS THEMES WERE SHOWN TO *ALL* ACCOUNTS – AND ALMOST ALL OF THEM RELATED TO CHRISTIANITY. 

THEY ALSO FOUND THE ACCOUNTS INTERESTED IN MOMMY VLOGGERS AND SPANISH-LANGUAGE NEWS WERE PRESENTED WITH MORE RELIGIOUS CONTENT THAN THE OTHERS. 

RESEARCHERS CREATED ACCOUNTS AND BUILT MOCK USER PERSONAS BY SEARCHING FOR CONTENT. 

THEY FOUND THE MOST FREQUENTLY RECOMMENDED NEWS CHANNEL FOR BOTH CHILD AND ADULT ACCOUNTS INTERESTED IN “MALE LIFESTYLE GURU” CONTENT WAS FOX NEWS — EVEN THOUGH THE ACCOUNTS HAD *NOT* WATCHED ANY FOX NEWS VIDEOS DURING THE PERSONA-BUILDING STAGE. 

INSTEAD, THE ACCOUNTS WATCHED JOE ROGAN AND JORDAN PETERSON – AND SEARCHED FOR THE TERM “ALPHA MALE.” 

AND ACCOUNTS INTERESTED IN MALE LIFESTYLE GURUS WERE OFTEN RECOMMENDED NEWS CONTENT THAT WAS MOSTLY RIGHT WING OR SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE. 

IN ANOTHER EXPERIMENT — RESEARCHERS CREATED TWO ACCOUNTS INTERESTED IN MOMMY VLOGGERS, WHICH THEY TRAINED TO HAVE DIFFERENT POLITICAL BIASES. 

ONE OF THE ACCOUNTS WATCHED FOX NEWS AND THE OTHER WATCHED MSNBC. RESEARCHERS FOUND DESPITE HAVING WATCHED THEIR RESPECTIVE CHANNELS FOR EQUAL AMOUNTS OF TIME — THE RIGHT-LEANING ACCOUNT WAS MORE FREQUENTLY RECOMMENDED FOX NEWS THAN THE LEFT-LEANING ACCOUNT WAS RECOMMENDED MSNBC.